Saturday, October 24, 2015

Bluebird Notebook: Numbers show Highlands dominance of district opponents

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. The Highlands freshmen team beat Ryle, 41-7 Thursday in Union.
The numbers more than tell the story of their domination of district opponents since 2007.

During their 31-game district winning streak with the 56-22 win over the Grant County Braves on Friday, the Highlands Bluebirds football team (4-5 overall) has outscored opponents by 1,274 points for an average of just more than 41 points per game. The Bluebirds have outscored Covington Catholic by 205 points in nine meetings during that run for an average of about 23 points per game and the other 23 district opponents by 1,069 points for an average of 48.6 points a contest.

"I can't say enough of how great a bye week we had," said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "We had a great week of work and a great week of rest at the same time and got refocused. We spent a lot of time as coaches in making sure we knew what we were and took advantage of that. We put ourselves in a great position to host playoff games. That's all we can ask for."

Covington Catholic has come within single digits of the Bluebirds three times during the streak with the closest one coming this year at 14-10. The closest any other opponent came to Highlands during the run is 26 points by Scott (33-7) in 2010.

This marked the first time during that run that Highlands faced Grant County. The Bluebirds moved up to Class 5A, District 5 with CovCath like the 2007 through 2010 seasons. The district is similar except the Braves are in it instead of the Scott Eagles.

Covington Holmes played in Class 5A, District 5 with Highlands in 2007 and 2008 before dropping to 4A. The Bulldogs played in the same Class 4A, District 7 with Highlands, CovCath and Harrison County between 2011 and last year. 

Pendleton County also found itself in the same district during that time but dropped out of district action in 2013 and 2014. The Bluebirds won those meetings 79-0 and 70-0 respectively.

Highlands owns 19 district championships in the last 20 years. The only time the Bluebirds have not won a district championship since 1995 came in 2006.

The Glare of Cecil Memorial Field:

It's something opposing coaches hope does not overwhelm the players. But they often come into Cecil Memorial Stadium in awe of the history and tradition that has taken place there over the years. Grant County Head Coach Kevin Siple said that was the case with the Braves on Friday.

"It's hard to settle down in this environment," Siple said. "They're looking around. It's hard for a 17-year-old to just relax and play. It's easy for me to say, 'Why didn't you hit that receiver?' But that's what Highlands does. That's why they're so good."

The scoreboard displays the state-record 23 state championships in school history. Siple helped Highlands to the Class 3A crown in 1977.

Playoff Pairings Set:

In terms of Class 5A, Region 3, the only seedings decided before Friday were Highlands (4-5 overall, 3-0 district) as the top seed and Grant County (3-6, 0-3) the fourth seed out of District 5. Covington Catholic (3-6, 2-1) claimed the second seed with a 42-14 win over Dixie Heights (2-7, 1-2).

Things were up in the air in District 6 as Friday saw the possibility of tiebreakers. But the Bluebirds will face the fouth-seeded Woodford County Yellow Jackets (3-6, 0-3) in the first round of the playoffs. 

Highlands has faced the Yellow Jackets one other time in school history. That also came in the first round of the playoffs in 2010. The Bluebirds dominated the Yellow Jackets, 70-8 on its way to the 5A crown that year.

The Bluebirds will face a talented offensive line in that game with three NCAA Division I senior recruits. Center Drake Jackson (6-feet-2-inches, 290 pounds) will take his talents to the University of Kentucky next year and guard Seth Joest (6-3, 295) will attend Western Kentucky University. The other recruit in guard Saige Young (6-4, 320) remained uncommitted but has offers from Ball State University and Troy University.

The Madison Southern Eagles (4-4, 3-0) took down Anderson County (4-5, 1-2), 43-28 to capture their first-ever district championship and the Montgomery County Indians (6-3, 2-1) beat Woodford County, 30-14 to take the second seed. The Indians are the lone team in the region with a winning record.

Madison Southern will play host to Grant County in the first round of the playoffs and CovCath plays host to Anderson County. The other game has Montgomery County taking on Dixie Heights in the first round. Highlands would face the winner of that game with a first-round win over Woodford County.

Dougherty moves into 10th in career PATs:

Highlands scored six touchdowns in the first half against Grant County and senior kicker Jared Dougherty made all six extra-point kicks. Dougherty upped his Highlands and Northern Kentucky record for the most PATs in a career to 182 putting him 10th all-time in Kentucky history.

Next on the list is former Boyle County and University of Kentucky kicker Taylor Begley. Begley made 183 kicking for the Rebels between 1997 and 2000. Dougherty passed former Danville kicker Jon Vanderpool (181 between 1992-94) and former Anderson County kicker Bill Rose (178 between 2009-11).

Around 5A:

The two most recent 5A state champions battled for district championships Friday. Last year's champion in the Pulaski County Maroons (8-1) ran roughshod over the in-county rival visiting Southwestern Warriors, 52-6 to capture the District 7 championship. Southwestern (7-2) beat Pulaski County for the district title last year in a game that four-year Pulaski County starting quarterback Riley Hall did not play in because of injuries.

The Bowling Green Purples (8-1) took care of the host Greenwood Gators (7-2), 49-14 on Friday. The Purples captured three straight 5A crowns between 2011 and 2013 before losing to eventual 5A runner-up Graves County, 7-0 in the region championship last year.

Junior Varsity, Freshman Updates:

The junior varsity team (6-2) concludes its season at Grant County on Saturday. Game time is 10 a.m. The Bluebirds beat Covington Catholic on Monday.

"The JV team does a great job helping the varsity guys get ready," Weinrich said. "They take advantage of the reps they get when they get them. It's hard to be a JV player and focus on your stuff when practice is different. They're playing great football."

The freshman team (7-2) beat Ryle, 41-7 Thursday in Union. Their season concludes Thursday at Dixie Heights at 6 p.m.

"The freshmen had another big win against Ryle," Weinrich said. "They're so much fun to watch and practice. They only know one way. That's to go 100 miles an hour."

These records are major improvements from last year. The Highlands freshman team finished 3-5 last year and the junior varsity team finished 1-5.

Scouting Boone County:

The Rebels faced the Campbell County Camels in a battle of 0-8 squads in Alexandria and lost 35-21. Boone County is facing its second winless season in three years.

The Rebels have won just two games since winning a region crown in four seasons since winning the region crown in 2011. Boone County fell a few plays short in a 16-14 defeat at Scott County in the Class 6A semifinals that year.

Boone County has its third head coach during that time in Marty Steele. Former Wayne County Head Coach and Bowling Green assistant Jeff Griffith took the head coaching job at Barren County after last year.


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